PENTAX K-01 - Funkiest Camera Design Ever

I have been looking for Pentax K-01 for a while now just for the unconventional and unique design of the camera. I finally found a used unit in a near mint condition selling at a price I cannot refuse! It has been a while since I was truly excited about a camera, and this 10 years old Pentax mirrorless got me out shooting a few rounds on the street. While the Pentax K-01 received generally underwhelming reviews everywhere, there are a few things that I do like about the camera, and I am sharing my thoughts and experience shooting with the camera in this entry. 

I have also made a video on Pentax K-01 here (click). 

Can't resist the funky design!

I love that Pentax was trying to be different and engaged a designer for the Pentax K-01. I can also see how this aggressive and over the top design may not be everyone's cup of tea, depending on what you use the camera for. Most professionals would stay safe and use a traditional SLR shaped camera to look more PRO. Say you are not shooting commercially or you just need a camera for fun outside of your professional shoots, a camera like a Pentax K-01 could be something fun and it does start conversations easily. The bold and eye-catching design can quickly turn heads once you flash it out of your camera bag. I believe that camera design has been too similar - everyone is adopting the same template. Not that it is a bad thing, cameras should look like cameras but I think it is time to have something radical for a change, and change can be a good thing. 

When it comes to camera performance, the Pentax K-01 is a mixed bag. 

I do think the camera is capable of capturing excellent images with very good sharpness, contrast and especially the color rendering. I really like how Pentax handles color. They look somewhat more neutral and realistic. I'd even go as far as to say I like the colors better than what I get from my Olympus system. The dynamic range of the 16MP APS-C image sensor is very good and low light performance is also respectable. I like the fact that there is image stabilization to further help hand-held shooting. The image output from the Pentax K-01 holds up to even today's standards, it may not have the higher resolution or better dynamic range/high ISO advantage of  newer APS-C cameras, but the overall results are still respectable. 

There are also a list of issues using the Pentax K-01. It is a very slow camera. Slow to focus, slow to respond. Autofocus is a nightmare, it hesitates and hunts even in very good light, and can be unbearable to use in dim light. In contrast, Olympus OM-D E-M5 which was released in the same year as the Pentax K-01 had significantly faster AF. Then there was the slow shot to shot time, with 2-3 seconds blackout after each shot. I am not even sure where the blackout came from, there was no mirror! And the long pauses due to blackouts in between shots means this camera is not meant for fast paced shooting, or where you need the camera to respond instantaneously to critical moments. Street photography is a struggle using this camera, unless the subjects you shoot are static. 

The lack of built in viewfinder and not having an attachment for an external viewfinder option was something that a lot of reviewers complained about. I do have to agree, as a camera launched in 2012, mirrorless is not that new in the game, and it was a turning point of mirrorless cameras stepping up to higher level. Olympus and soon to be followed Sony started to adopt electronic viewfinders. 

The 40mm F2.8 pancake lens that came with the camera is worth mentioning, so slim, compact and sharp as well! I will have a separate video and article discussing this particular lens. 

I won't recommend this camera to anyone, but if you want to collect something unique, and have a camera that can start conversations even with non-photographers crowd, the Pentax K-01 is definitely it. 

The camera I was holding was not Pentax K-01, but this image was shot with it. 
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  1. Finally you got a Pentax! And of course you've chosen one of the most polarising Pentax models. ��
    Pentax was my start in the DSLR world because they are neither Canon, Nikon nor Sony and they had IBIS even in the entry level K100Dsuper in 2007 (!), which was my first Pentax DSLR.
    In 2011 and 2012 the rumours about the mirrorless model were comparable to the OM System OM-1 were in 2021. Then the images of the K-01 were published and I was out because there is no EVF, no articulating or tilting screen and the design isn't my cup of tea at all.
    Pentax later on built DSLRs with a bit outstanding designs - to name the K-S1 and K-S2, which also were available in different colours. As far as I know they mainly targeted the japanese market.

    It would be great if you could share your experiences with the DA40/2.8XS.

    1. Thanks EckyH! Yes, it was because the K-01 was so controversial during its launch, I just have got to have one now so many years later, when I can get it cheap. And I am very happy with it, despite all the flaws and issues. It will probably not be the camera I use often and rely to get my shots, but it is one camera I will be happy to flash around and grab some attention, when I want some!

  2. Hi Robin! First, thank you for all your work. I can really feel your energy, even through reading your blog! (Yes I am one of those that prefer to read AND I haven’t even turned 30 yet! But your videos are also great.)

    I went the other way myself, from Pentax to Olympus. It was a couple of years ago that I started photography with a Pentax - a great camera that I fell in love with. But, it was big so I changed to a Panasonic micro four thirds. Also a great camera but the Pentax felt more like a camera if that makes sense? It just felt wonderful to use. I am now waiting on an Olympus and I think your blog, and videos, will be even more helpful.

    1. Hey Artur,
      Thanks for popping by and I appreciate the kind words. I will continue to blog of course, this site is not going anywhere. I much prefer to write over making videos, but the reality is, I make more money from YouTube, and I kinda need that now, since photography jobs are suffering due to the pandemic.
      Glad you got yourself an Olympus. And I am glad to know that I can be a bit of help through my content.

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